Some of you may be surprised but Catholics pray. So let’s talk about what prayer is.
Prayer is extremely simple: it is just communication with God, conversation with God, communing with God.
Prayer can be either private or public, individual or communal. We must have both.
Prayer can be either informal or formal, in our own words or in the words of the saints from the many centuries of the Church’s tradition. we need both kinds.
Prayer can be vocal or silent, with words or without words. We need both kinds.
Prayer can be either active or receptive, speaking to god or listening to God , just being in His presence, waiting in love, open to His will. We need both.
The most important thing about prayer is not how we do it, but that we do it. The single most important answer to the question “how to pray?” is, just do it. We learn todo it by doing it, not by merely reading or thinking about doing it.
Prayer is work, a co-operative work of ourselves and God. We can’t do it without God and God won’t do it without us.
Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response of our part. It always presupposes effort (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2725).
Prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who dos all he can to turn man away from payer, away from union with God. The battle of prayer is therefore more important – infinitely more important – than any battle in military history. Period.
The prerequisites for a prayer life. The Catechism speaks of three necessary prerequisites for prayer. These do not include experience or wisdom or saintliness. Prayer is for beginners and fools and sinners. But not for those devoid of humility, of love, or of faith. These are the prerequisites for prayer.
But how could finite, mortal, sinful man dare to hope that the infinite, eternal, perfect God should pay attention to his prayers? It would seem far stranger than some great king caring about the lives of live or the wishes of fishes. Yet prayer is the union of the entire holy and royal Trinity. Prayer is being in the presence of the thrice-holy God and in communion with him. It is truly amazing grace.
Who let us into that divine throne room? Christ. This communion of life is always possible because through Baptism we have already been united with Christ. Christ’s death on the Cross tore apart the curtain that had closed off the “holy of holies.” This was the holiest part of the temple, and symbolized Bod’s own dwelling place. No man was allowed to enter it except the High Priest once a year to make atonement for sin with the blood of the sacrificial lamb. Christ’s death gave each one of us complete access to the highest throne room of the Trinity. He thus opened up the radically new reality for us and for our prayer. We could always pray, of course, and God had always loved and heard us, but sin separated us from God until Christ’s death made atonement. This Gospel or good news means something good and something new about prayer too. What is new is to ask “in his name.” Faith in the Son introduces the disciples into the knowledge of the Father because Jesus in “the way.”
Not a way but the way. There is no other way of Christian prayer than Christ. Whether our prayer is communal or personal, vocal or interior, it has access to the Father only if we pray “in the name of Jesus,” by his authority, by the right his death has given us to enter God’s presence.
Christian prayer is as Christocentric as everything else in the Christian life. Prayer is thrice Christocentric, for Christ.